22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Sujatha Gidla

Portrait Sujatha Gidla
© Hartwig Klappert

Sujatha Gidla was born in 1964 in Andhra Pradesh, India, as a member of the Dalit caste or »Untouchables«, the descendants of the original inhabitants of India. She studied physics at Regional Engineering College in Warangal and later worked as a researcher at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras. At age 26 she moved to the USA. After having worked at a bank, in 2009 she took a job with the New York subway and became the first Indian woman to be employed as a train conductor in one of the busiest public transport systems in the world.

Her début »Ants Among the Elephants« (2017) bears strong autobiographical elements. Although most Untouchables in India are illiterate, Sujatha Gidla’s family, which belongs to the Mala caste, was taught by Canadian missionaries in the 1930s. These circumstances eventually made higher education possible for Gidla, but she and her family were reminded of their status daily, which led Gidla to reflect on the relationship between religion, caste, and social status. After moving to the USA, the view from the outside enabled her to understand more deeply her own family history, which is at once both extraordinary and typical. When researching in India, she began searching for traces of her parents’ history, especially the pasts of her mother, her grandparents, and a Maoist uncle who hoped that a revolution would bring about the end of caste discrimination. According to the »New York Times«, the »unsentimental, deeply poignant book« gives »readers an unsettling and visceral understanding of how discrimination, segregation and stereotypes have endured throughout the second half of the 20th Century and today«. Gilda’s texts have also appeared in »The Oxford India Anthology of Telugu Dalit Writing«.

Sujatha Gidla lives in New York.